Gaming Uber Alles, Year Three

Gaming Uber Alles, Year Three
Ten Things That Don't Suck About the Game Industry

Jason Della Rocca | 8 Jul 2008 12:32
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Of course, the marketing folks have had a pretty good understanding of their target market from a business perspective since the beginning, but even this part of the industry is examining players with finer detail. For example, Parks Associates released a comprehensive report covering six types of game players and their motivations for play.

4. Democratization of Development Tools
Sure, the creation of AAA console games and large-scale MMOGs is still solely the domain of the big studios. Yet, much like moviemaking has been liberated by inexpensive equipment, so, too, the tools of game development are being democratized. From the ubiquitous Flash for casual games to Microsoft's latest efforts with the XNA Community initiative; from the open-sourced Blender to the $100 Torque engine to the Play All standard middleware initiative funded by France's Minister of Industry, it's getting cheaper (if not easier) to design games. Insomniac Games is even sharing its PS3 engine tech via its Nocturnal program.

Communicating through the medium of videogames still requires many specifically nerdy skills and tools, but the above examples point to a future where anyone will be able to express themselves with interactivity as their canvas.

5. New Business Models
The proliferation of broadband internet access has been the catalyst for the evolution of new business models in the game industry. Korea in particular, with no retail market to speak of, has been the region to watch as studios experiment with new ways to sell and distribute games. The free-to-play model - whereby you can play a game for free and choose later to purchase premium content - is all the rage.

Many other opportunities exist, including ad-driven games, episodic content, DLC marketplaces, subscriptions, Steam distribution, etc. We've even seen interesting approaches like real-world item sales. Webkinz makes it money by selling small stuffed animals that come with a code allowing children to log into a virtual world as their plush companion.

6. Indie Viability
Despite all the consolidation going on in the mainstream game industry, now is a great time to be an indie developer. Actually, several of the previous points are intersecting to create an extremely vibrant ecosystem within which indies can thrive - both creatively and economically.

The continued awesomeness - and success - of games coming out of the annual Independent Games Festival is just one indicator of this. In fact, I've personally seen industry agents attending IGF-related sessions at GDC to scout for new content, ideas and talent.

What's important here is that we are entering a state where indies have a choice to use their independence as their stepping stone into the "big leagues," or to remain truly "indie" and explore concepts not feasible under the scrutiny of shareholders.

7. Focus on Process
Scrum and other Agile methods of production are the developer buzz words du jour. The old method of "let's just hack it all together" has not scaled well with the increased scope and complexity of today's game projects. More and more, producers are exploring - and adopting - formal software development methodologies, adding much needed rigor to how games are developed and enabling games to be made on time, on budget and to spec with a greater degree of certainty.

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